how to make your kids cry


This year has been marked with a couple of really unforgettable moments.

We decided to use the 25 Days of Christmas binder I made years ago at a church homemaking/enrichment/craft night/whatever the heck we’re calling it now event, to bring the true meaning of Christmas into our family. Each day has a song, a scripture and a story–many of them classic, ageless pieces that every child should know.

As we hit the second week of December I opened the binder and found myself face to face with Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Matchgirl.” Talk about a tear jerker, my mother used to read us that terrible tale when I was a child and I hated it.

I relish the opportunity to make my children feel something other than boredom or hunger so I sprang at the chance to weave it into our Christmas tradition.

As I told the sad tale of the poor, freezing, shoeless match girl, huddled in the cold and afraid to go home because her father would beat her (that made me look really good), I couldn’t hold back my tears. In her desperation she gives in and lights a match. Suddenly a vision is before her: a warm fire all crackly and toasty, chasing away the awful cold that is freezing her little hands and blue feet–until her match burns out.

Again, she’s alone and cold.

Quickly she lights another match and sees a vision of a lovely Roast Goose with dates and prunes (my kids would have gagged), her poor little mouth watering at the sight–until the match burns out.

She lights another, desperate for comfort, and sees the most glorious Christmas tree! Walking toward it, anxious to be part of that magical moment, she almost touches it–then gone. The match is extinguished.

The fourth match. This time (ready?) she sees her beautiful old grandmother who has died, the only person who ever loved her. Her granny reaches out to her and she’s so desperately afraid to lose the vision that she lights her matches as fast as she can, “Granny! Take me with you!” she cries, reaching for her lovely granny who pulls the cold little child into her arms and flies away to Heaven to live with Jesus.

The people find her dead little body the next day, clutching the matches. She died of cold, they say, such a pity, so sad.

By this time I looked over at Harrison and he was an absolute wreck. He was slumped over in the chair, sobbing his little 8-year-old head clean off, not sure if he was glad she’s dead or if it’s the worst thing he’s ever heard. I opened my arms and he shuffled over, collapsed against the couch cushions and sobbed and sobbed, drooling all over my couch in his absolute anguish.

It took him ten minutes to quit crying.

That night he prayed for all the little match girls and the kids with no food and mean parents, the ones without shoes in the cold (sob!) and would Heavenly Father please bless them all?

I think it was, very possibly, the greatest motherhood moment of my life.

Also Jason has insisted that I never read that horrible story to our children ever again.

I say? Every. Single. Year. Oh yes, they will hear it again.


  1. When they get a little older, gather them around the computer and play them “I’ll Build You a Rainbow.” I did that to my kids one day.

  2. You’re the best, Annie. The best. What a lovely, funny, sad, happy story of one of the saddest stories ever written. My David had an assignment to change the ending of the story. He wrote that the girl had just fainted and was found by a loving rich couple who took her home with them. When she awoke she found herself in a warm, beautiful home with the goose and all the things she had seen in her visions, with the exception of the grandmother, but she did have the love she represented, and the couple adopted her. 🙂

  3. Annie,
    What a hoot. We sure enjoy the awesome time we get to spend with you Jason and your wonderful family. Thank you for sharing your family with us!